the poem in Greek
and become the man I would want to remain forever:
son of the Jews, the holy Jews.
From the desert of Egypt the line departs,
and through the great Babylon it passes.
Perennial, replenished, always full,
squirming, continuously fed
with new sorrows;
what a mystifying offer,
such inexplicable punishment and disaster.
The tribe of Jews passes, white tribe set apart,
with its own special pride,
with its own painful contrition,
a fate persistent, a Fate of persistence
in the tribe that refuses the alien participation.
In martyrdom the human line passes,
tight through the succession of times,
a sign of perseverance through the ages,
of a distinct submission and focus
into the tribe's horrors and destinies,
the signs, the distinct features,
gifts or defects set apart.
they are gone without strength
before the pursuer
The line passes through the streets
of the city of Thessalonica now,
and inside it more and more faces,
her children are gone into captivity
before the enemy
small children holding small bags
in their hands, wearing small, tall shoes
for the unknown distant roads
of the terrible unknown adversity.
the young children ask bread,
and no man breaketh it unto them
the tongue of the sucking child
cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst
The children and the sucklings
swoon in the streets of the city
The young and the old
lie on the ground in the streets.
The line has old men with glances
remote, turned toward the start
of the perennial exile, it has young,
beautiful women with glances darkened
by the hideous fright,
they ravished the women in Zion,
and the maids in the cities of Judah.
My virgins and my young men
are gone into captivity.
young men with crushed necks
and heads low as if harvested,
struck and bloodied faces,
unrecognizable from the curses and insults,
torn by shame, degraded
by wrongs unheard of and malicious.
She weepeth sore in the night,
and her tears are on her cheeks
The line of terrible martyrdom passes,
the line of the martyred tribe -- you think
you are seeing the persecution from its very start,
you are hearing the mandate of the voice
heard all over the earth,
and the stern, straining voice that moaned
in the Jews' undrying lungs.
Of the voice that was heard in Ramah
and counseling with the mother of the Maccabees,
the voice that clamors and echoes, even in silence,
the invariant strength of the holy Jews.
Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water
for the destruction of my people.
The odor of burning bodies...
They sense it everywhere
those who were left,
those who returned,
those who do not forget,
they cannot forget
they have given their pleasant things for food...
their skin cleaveth to their bones;
it is withered, it is become like a stick
our skin was black like an oven
because of the fiery famine
the exhaustion of the bodies,
the degradation of souls,
by the horrible need,
He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him:
he is filled full with reproach
the horrible destruction
of the handsome human body
that was not allowed to die alone
and replenish the earth.
Whose soul was raped
and no one respected its death.
Israel's tribe of silent endurance,
unbending secret strength, anticipation,
there it stands stoic and unyielding.
[Excerpts from Jeremiah's Lamentations inserted by the poet and included
here in translation (King James Bible, with a couple of alterations);
my sincere thanks to Patrick Murphy and Nick Nicholas for their assistance
with this translation. -- GB]